I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.
For the first time in over a decade, I am not hosting my cadre of family, chosen and biological, to partake of the fruits of a month's worth of careful planning, shopping and calculated cooking. I am not obsessing about cooking times, allergies, social tensions, wine, vegan alternatives, keeping children occupied, allowing for left-handed eaters, children, pets and making sure to allow for fluctuations in the weather. I don't have to worry about having enough toilet paper, serving dishes, utensils and glasses. I don't have to remind myself to breathe. I don't have to do a NATO-style diplomatic seating chart, wonder about people being left out or included or hit on. I'm not making my famous fig stuffing, cooking a 22 lb turkey, mashing cranberries, potatoes and making that gravy right after the bird comes out. I'm not enjoying the crazy, wide, beautiful variety of my people from the comfort of my own home.
I'm not doing any of it this year. And, as much as I love all of the above, I'm kind of glad about it.
I'm ready to take a year off and celebrate the blessings in my life with someone else doing all the fussing (my sister's mother-in-law). I'll watch football (blankly, I'll admit), swap stories with my brother-in-law, talk to my Dad about the weather and my Mom about the hell of growing old. My sister and I will catch each other's eyes at exactly the same time after a crazy comment at the table. There will be other in-laws and outlaws talking delightfully about their childhoods and how kids used to be, while completely fawning over the kids that are there. There will be wonderful smells and sights and tastes and touches and sounds. I'll probably eat too much and have dessert anyway. I won't be alone in that.
I'm going to mindfully, gratefully take it all in. Every cheesy, predictable, ordinary moment of it.
Time was, I never thought I'd live this long. I also didn't think my family would be so fantastic to me and the man I've chosen. I've suffered through so many of my own misconceptions, misperceptions and straight-up craziness that now I'm simply deciding to pay attention to the truth: the beauty of my life, my family and the ordinary ways I am loved. Without working for it.
It can get lost sometimes, in the craziness. The love of being the perfect host/cook/cruise director is still there, but I think I need the reminder of being the guest in order to appreciate the fulness of life. I want to experience the other side. I remember a saying I once saw in a bed and breakfast:
"It is the host's responsibility to make their guests feel at home.
It is the guest's responsibility to remember that they are not."
There's graciousness involved on both sides. I think I know how to be a host. It's time to learn how to be a better guest. Because really, like it or not, it's actually my primary role. I'm a guest in so many different ways every day of my life. We all are.
And a little practice couldn't hurt.
I wish you all a very beautiful Thanksgiving.